When I was growing up, I learned not to complain to my father that I didn’t have enough time to get things done. “We’re all given the same 24 hours,” he would say, “it’s just a question of how you choose to use them.”
I hated it when he said that.
Lately, my dad’s voice has been in my head as I have struggled (unsuccessfully) to stay on top of my various obligations. Due to layoffs, we are shorthanded at work and my responsibilities have expanded; I have continued teaching my early morning Seminary class each day; plus I do some editing work which continues to take up much of my so-called “spare time.” Add to that that I am ostensibly a father and husband, and it doesn’t leave a lot of discretionary hours or even minutes in the day. It tends to get a little overwhelming, frankly.
In the last couple of weeks the pressure of overdoing has really gotten to me. I won’t drag you through the specifics, but suffice it to say that I have been feeling like a juggler with too many balls and not enough hands (and I have the bruises to prove it). I can’t help wondering—every hour or so—if it’s really worth it.
The truth is, it probably isn’t. My father’s aphorism is an apt reminder that when we choose to do anything in life we are also choosing not to do a million other things at that same moment. String those moments together and for sure you will have forgone a number of worthwhile things that perhaps, in retrospect, you might rather have done.
The whole thing brings to mind the story of Mary and Martha. You may recall that Jesus was a good friend of theirs and apparently was a guest in their home from time to time. On one particular occasion, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him teach while Martha bustled about fixing the food, setting the table, tending to the chores that come with hosting a meal. (The scripture says that she was “cumbered about much serving.”) Needless to say, Martha was more than a little annoyed with her sister for just sitting around while she did all the work. Finally, Martha complained to Jesus about it. Big mistake.
In response to her whining, Jesus gave a gentle, loving rebuke: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). It was the Savior’s way of reminding Martha not to let what she felt she had to do get in the way of that which she ought to do. And I might reasonably conclude that he would say something similar to me.
So the questions I suppose we all need to be able to answer are these: What things are truly needful? And how can we be sure to choose “that good part”? I’m not sure I know the answers to those questions (else I might not be feeling so overwhelmed), but I do know this: I have been careful and troubled about many things lately. And if I don’t find a different approach, the juggling balls are going to continue to crash down on my head.
After all, we’re all given the same 24 hours. . . .